Continuing his 2012 bowl previews, Joe Healy previews the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
If you are a fan of explosive offenses, it would probably be a good idea for you to do something else with your time while this game is on.
If tough, aggressive defense is what you are into, though, this game is for you. Heck, if you are really that into defense, chances are you have this game circled already.
The Michigan State Spartan defense finished ninth in the country in scoring defense and fourth in total defense. On six occasions, they held their opponent to 13 points or fewer.
Stopping opposing offenses is truly a team effort for MSU, but that doesn’t mean the unit is without their leaders.
Linebacker Max Bullough leads the team in tackles with 102 and chipped in with 12 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Defensive end William Gholston matched Bullough’s 12 tackles for loss and managed to lead the team with 3.5 sacks. Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard lead the team with three interceptions apiece.
The offense isn’t completely anemic, either. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell struggled to make big plays and complete over 50% of his passes, but running back Le’Veon Bell more than made up for Maxwell’s poor play. The junior running back will come into the game with 1,648 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
In a lot of ways, TCU is a lot like Michigan State. They lean heavily on defense and ask only that their offense not give the game away.
The Horned Frogs defense rank 34th in the nation in scoring defense and 20th in total defense and that’s actually quite a bit down from where previous TCU defenses have been.
But that’s not to say that they aren’t stacked with talent like they have been before. Freshman Devonte Fields has been a disrupting force since the second he stepped onto the field for TCU. In the regular season, he tallied 17.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. It’s rare to see a true freshman dominate on defense the way he has this season.
In the secondary, Jason Verrett leads the way. He has six interceptions and 20 passes defended thus far.
Offensively, TCU has really struggled to get anything going ever since talented quarterback Casey Pachall left the team to check himself into rehab. Trevone Boykin, the quarterback head coach Gary Patterson turned the offense over to, held things together about as well as you could have expected him to, but he just wasn’t able to fill Pachall’s shoes. You have to like his ability to extend a play and make something out of nothing, but he hasn’t shown an ability to make the big plays through the air like Pachall and Andy Dalton before him.
When TCU looks to make plays in the passing game, they look to Josh Boyce and Brandon Carter. Boyce leads the team with 61 catches, 800 yards and seven touchdowns. Carter is the team’s most consistent big play threat, as he led the team with a 17 yards per catch average.
Everything lines up well for a Michigan State win. They have the better defense and even though TCU’s defense is nothing to be ashamed of, I fully expect Le’Veon Bell to lead his team to victory by finding some open space on the ground.